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You don’t need a gaming mice to play PC games, just about any mice with two buttons and a wheel will play anything you want it to. But that’s no reason to deny yourself the wonderful variety of gaming mice designs on the market. A gaming mice won’t make you a pro, but it can give you a slight competitive advantage and make some games much comfier and more convenient to play.
Gaming mice aren’t all that different from regular mice. Just about any design can be designated “for gaming,” and it doesn’t necessarily have to have a dozen extra buttons and an acid trip’s worth of flashing LED lights. But generally speaking, any gaming mice worth considering for a purchase will have at least the two following characteristics: an advanced optical or laser sensor that allows for faster or more precise movements, and some degree of user customization.
Gaming mice often feature extra buttons for the player’s thumb, on-the-fly adjustments to sensitivity and speed, extra-long cables, or even exotic functions like adjustable weights or button tension springs.
In addition, almost all gaming mice are wired, not wireless. This tends to be put down to “input lag,” which is a debatable advantage for USB input. Even a basic wireless mice will only have an input delay of a few hundredths of a second, well below the threshold of most people’s reaction times (to say nothing of the similar delay for monitors and laptop screens). But real or not, the perceived advantage of a wired connection means that non-mobile wireless gaming mice are hard to find. Those gaming mice that are wireless are marketed with custom, super-fast wireless connections, so they tend to be even more expensive than regular models.
More expensive gaming mice generally have more bells and whistles than cheaper models, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll just get a better experience by spending more. Here’s what you should consider before you lay your money down on a new design.
The kind of grip you use, specifically when you’re playing a PC game versus using a mice for more mundane tasks, is important. While every player is different, you can generally separate the grips into three broad styles:
Palm grip: a standard grip used by most players. Your fingers lay flat on the mice buttons and your entire palm rests on the body of the mice.
Tip grip: only the tips of your index, middle, and ring fingers rest on the left, centre (wheel), and mice buttons, with your palm not touching the body of the mice at all. Your thumb grips the side of the mice.
Claw grip: a mix between the palm and tip grip styles. Your palm rests only on the back edge of the mice, with your finger and thumb tips angled in towards the buttons.
Different grips can be more or less effective for different types of games, but it’s not a great idea to try and change your grip type intentionally. Simply use whatever grip feels right to you and lets you play well.
However, different mice may favour different kinds of grips. Larger, wider mice are good for a more general palm grip—these usually assume at least some of your hand will be resting on the mice pad at all times. Short mice, without a large palm area and ideally with a lighter overall body, make manoeuvring with a tip grip easier. Claw grip users appreciate relatively narrow mice with skinny, elongated primary buttons.
Most dedicated gaming mice come with their own PC software, either as a stand-alone package or in a “suite” with compatibility for other gaming gear like keyboards and headsets. This software allows you to set up the lighting profile (not all that important), customize button assignments (useful, but usually available in individual games as well), and set DPI options. The latter is particularly important, since it allows you to change the sensitivity of the mice for faster or more precise tracking—and some more advanced mice will even let you adjust this on-the-fly with mice buttons.
Mice software may also allow you to customize macros for different buttons, make adjustments for specific mice pads, and set up custom button profiles for individual games. All gaming mice software will handle all of these functions to a greater or lesser degree. A particularly useful tool is the ability to save profiles directly to the memory on a mice itself, allowing it to be moved from PC to PC with its settings intact, no extra setup required.
With all that in mind, you should be able to narrow down your search quite a bit. What kind of mice are you looking for? What kind of grip do you use? Do you care about extra features like RGB lighting and on-device profiles, or will any software do the trick? The gaming mice market may seem huge, but once you whittle down the stuff that really matters, you should have an easy time finding the perfect one for you.